Pakistan news April 17, 2011

Zulqarnain Haider to return to Pakistan

ESPNcricinfo staff

Former Pakistan wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider is reportedly preparing to return to Pakistan and has said he is hoping to resume his playing career. Haider, who fled to London last year after claiming he had received death threats from match-fixers, suggested he had been reassured by a meeting with Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik in London last week, and would withdraw his application for asylum in Britain.

"After meeting with [the] interior minister and getting assurance of my and my family's safety in Pakistan, I have decided to return home on April 24," Haider told Pakistani private TV channels GEO and ARY from London. "After getting this assurance there is no need for me to continue with my asylum application, which I will withdraw."

Haider, 24, went missing from the Pakistan team hotel in Dubai on the morning of the fifth and final ODI against South Africa on November 8, saying he had received death threats from unidentified people seeking to draw him into match-fixing.

In the aftermath of his flight, Haider announced his international retirement and his contract with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was suspended. A fact-finding committee subsequently set-up by the PCB to look into the affair failed to find any clear motives behind his actions. A PCB official has said that there has been no contact between the Board and Haider, and their only knowledge of his return to Pakistan had come through media reports.

Pakistan newspaper The News carried excerpts from a letter written by Haider to the UK home secretary, Theresa May, days after Haider's brother Aqeel was quoted as saying that Malik had given assurances over the safety of Haider's family. The letter, reportedly written by Haider, outlined his decision to withdraw his asylum claim and thanked Scotland Yard for its efforts.

Haider originally fled to the UK to seek protection and placed an application for asylum that hinged on the nature of the information he was able to divulge into the Pakistan match-fixing scandal, as the extraordinary nature of his case appeared to fall outside the usual conditions required of a person seeking refugee status.

The application was still being processed when Haider announced he would be returning to Pakistan. In order to formally withdraw the application, he will have to fill in and return a 'Withdrawal of Asylum & Human Rights Claim' form. The asylum application will not be treated as withdrawn until the form signed by the applicant is received by the UK Border Agency.